Formally, malicious prosecution is "an action for damages brought by one against whom a civil suit or criminal proceeding has been unsuccessfully commenced without probable cause and for a purpose other than that of bringing the alleged offender to justice." In plain terms, it is a case filed against a person who accused someone of something in the court of law with baseless and malicious litigation.It exists to protect you from any malicious legal action that is initiated without probable cause or for the sake of harassing you.
There are four main elements that must be proven by the plaintiff in order to prove the defendant maliciously litigated against you.
- The original case was terminated in favor of the plaintiff
This is the most straight-forward element. The initial case in question must be over and the (now) plaintiff must be proven innocent in a court of law for the charges claimed to be malicious and baseless.
- The defendant played an active role in the original case
This does not include false witnesses on the stand. As a part of the civil and criminal court practice, a witness should not fear being charged for defamation each time they take the stand. Instead, the plaintiff claims that the prosecutor and/or plaintiff knew that the litigation was baseless but continued the civil lawsuit or criminal accusations anyway. If a prosecutor was tricked into making such malicious actions, he or she would not be held accountable for the actions and all responsibility would fall onto the original plaintiff.
- The defendant did not have probable cause or reasonable grounds to support the original case
During this process of proof, the court reviews all sources reviewed and considered during the litigation process of the initial case, including the effort put in by both sides to find truthful resources, or lack of opportunity given to the defendant to explain their case. In a criminal case, this is usually easier to prove because criminal law requires proof of probable cause and will not go to court otherwise - so if the case never went to court, the plaintiff will have a better chance of charging someone with malicious prosecution.
- The defendant initiated or continued the initial case with an improper purpose.
This element dives into the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant had ill will or resentment toward the plaintiff during or before the initial case. The motivation can be proven through inference since the defendant usually will not openly admit to intentionally litigating with improper purpose.
One last thing to remember is that a malicious prosecution suit is not necessarily the answer to your original trial anyway. If you were the victim of, for example, false imprisonment or false evidence, you may be better of suing based on allegations of an unfair trial rather than malicious prosecution.
Malicious prosecution is a legal action that can represent both civil and criminal law. The Kyle Law Firm attorneys are professionally trained in both types of law, so whatever your situation, our highly experienced Texas attorneys will always fight to make sure your rights are protected. If you live in the San Marcos, New Braunfels or Seguin, Texas areas, contact Kyle Law Firm for a free consultation.